If you don’t trust banks, this man is here to help you all

2016-03-24 06:00

If you drive through the centre of Kraaifontein and head into the township, it’s hard to miss Isaia Mpeoa.

Isaia is a friendly face in the neighbourhood and well-liked by all. A pastor at the nearby church, he’s a man of God - but also a businessman.

“I’m not just a pastor. Words are not enough on their own. I’m a pastor that does business too.”

Isaia recently opened his own IMB Service Centre on the main road to help the township residents open secure accounts.

He has done this for two major reasons: one, he believes the banks could be doing more to help people, and two, he wants to protect migrants from skollies.

The migrants, you see, carry cash because the banks will not help them without an ID book. “These people go to sleep with their cash,” Mpeoa says.

I know a woman who woke up to a man wrenching that cash free from her grasp in bed; another woman whose house burnt down and all her money with it.”

Isaia has teamed up with IMB, a financial technology company based in Cape Town. Together, they have created a Service Centre a stone’s throw away from the local shops. At the Centre, people open an IMB account, deposit money into the virtual wallet and get a card with a PIN they create. Migrants don’t need to carry cash, and locals South Africans can deal with people they know.

“People here don’t trust the banks,” Mpeoa explains. “They want to deal with people from their community. If they come to my IMB Service Centre, they know me, they know the church I work at, and they trust me.” As for the migrants, they’re now able to keep their hard-earned money in a safe account.

“The skollies are taking notice,” Mpeoa remarks. “Now they are leaving people alone. If you don’t carry cash, you don’t have a problem.” Isaia is helping to change the way South Africans think about money.

Ordinary people need not battle long queues and bureaucratic rules.

Rather, they can deal with community members they know and trust, and keep their money in an account that is backed by innovative technology that enables Communty-owned Financial Services.

IMB – Isaia’s partner on the project – has created a secure environment for people to send, receive and withdraw money.

Better yet, the revenue Isaia generates from his Service Centre goes back into the local shops and businesses he visits, and not into a shareholder’s pocket overseas.

Big banking is at odds with the needs of real people, and Isaia recognises this.

The Kraainfontein native is in talks with pastors in Khayelitsha who are looking forward to creating their own community initiative. “They all want to be entrepreneurs,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. IMB welcomes the news.

To date, the company has 8 Service Centres run by entrepreneurs across the country. The plan is to go big – much bigger. “The financial services legislation in South Africa is written for a different country,” says IMB’s Dane Taylor.

“What’s written there doesn’t work in this environment.

The good news is that there’s an opportunity for people to be their own boss and earn money while delivering a better service.”

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